Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Boy Jack

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”

Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,

This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

~Rudyard Kipling, 1915

Kipling wrote this poem titled "My Boy Jack" when his 18 year old son Jack (John) went missing in the Battle of Loos during World War I. I recently saw David Haig's adapted play based on that particular time of Kipling's life. In the play, David Haig himself plays Rudyard Kipling and Daniel Radcliffe plays young John Kipling.

There are several places where, I feel, the playwright has clearly gone overboard in dramatizing the story. Even if we do make an allowance that the play is a work of fiction, and thus deserves some artistic freedom, there are more than a few things that appear out of place. Rudyard Kipling is portrayed as a rather pompous, energetic man who does not seem to think twice before launching into a scathing attack on anyone (or anything). The play almost goes on to show how he pushes his son into the war and ultimately almost sacrifices him for the sake of his ideals. In my mind, I am unable to imagine the character in the play as the man who wrote the poem above. Rudyard Kipling was, first and foremost, a writer par excellence and therefore clearly must have been a better thinker than what is portrayed in the play. Also it is a widely held belief that he had a unique multicultural perspective on most things, in part attributed to his upbringing in culturally diverse environments across continents. These qualities are certainly apparent in the global appeal and recognition of his work. None of these characteristics are reflected in the Rudyard Kipling created by Haig.

Moving on, the character of Jack Kipling (Daniel Radcliffe) seems to be somewhat unidimensional. Subconsciously he is primarily concerned with only one thing - being able to emulate his father in greatness. This pitiable condition is brought up repeatedly, first with his failure during the eye exam, and then with his sheepish training as a soldier. Both the navy and the army first reject him for his myopic eyes but Rudyard used his enormous influence to get him into the army as a soldier. This pity for Jack reaches its crescendo when later he loses his spectacles during the battle, gets shot and is killed. The young boy's bravery in battle, and his untimely death, are used in the play for the ultimate goal of placing the blame squarely on Rudyard. In summation, the theme of the play is slowly built up to show just one thing - Rudyard Kipling's guilt for the death of his son. The play largely succeeds in this effort. I, however, still have my reservations about the need to do that in the first place.

My Boy Jack cover

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Teen Repeller

There has been an outcry by civil liberties groups across the developed world after a $1500 device called Mosquito was installed in a number of places to repel young adults and teens. The device emits irritating sound and thus drives away loiters (and or harmless bystanders) aged between twelve and twenty-something. The sound cannot be heard by either younger children or older people.

Read more about it here.

To find if your ear is sensitive to the sound, you may download an mp3 here and listen to it.

In a not-so-interesting way I learn that my ears are still sensitive (as I could hear the screech) - Phew!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Баллада о солдате (Ballad Of A Soldier)

I just saw this fabulous 1959 Russian film about a World War II soldier. Director Grigory Chukhrai won the 1960 Cannes award for best direction for this film.
The main character Alyosha Skvortsov's life, and the life of people he meets in the movie is a story of possibilities:

- possibility of being killed by enemy tanks (in the opening scene)
- possibility of finding Vasya's (the invalid) wife waiting for him
- possibility of winning Shura's friendship
- possibility of seeing his mother before his official six day leave is exhausted
- possibility of patching up the roof of his mother's house
- possibility of returning back alive from the war (the ending)

Some of these possibilities get fulfilled (thereby keeping us as believers while the end of others just remains unknown to us). Besides the great plot the film has superb direction, cinematography and music which render it is a classic B&W masterpiece. Nineteen year old Alyosha's life seems to mirror everything that is right even during the tragic war - he is a brave soldier, an honest man and a devoted son.

My Moment Of Zen - The dusty, curvy road which marks the beginning and end of story is a haunting visual. To me it signifies the life of the soldier, the wait of the mother and the beloved, and over and above the choices we as individuals (and nations) make and how these choices impact others.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Khamosh Pani (Silent Waters)

Today I saw Khamosh Pani aka Silent Waters (2003). I must say I am extremely impressed by the authenticity of the content in movie (so rare in subcontinent films).

Director Sabiha Sumar does an excellent job in transporting the viewer to a not-so-distant past in Pakistani Punjab (1979) and very elegantly depicts the angst of a nation coming to terms with its identity. Kirron Kher is her usual self though, remarkably, her vocal outbursts have been very well subdued by the excellent direction/editing. For me the outstanding screen presence was Shilpa Shukla (below). I have seen her in another film (not Chak De India or Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi), but I am unable to remember which one. If I recall correctly, she played the role of a prostitute in that particular movie (whose name I am unable to remember). Does anyone know what I am talking about?

Friday, April 18, 2008

King Corn

I saw two movies today -

Woody Allen's Crimes And Misdemeanors and Independent Lens film King Corn

The first one was typical Woody stuff. The second film is a really good independent effort - it awakened me to the hazards of eating badly (read fast food).

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I watched Tsotsi yesterday. It won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2005.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Kramer vs. Kramer

Scene Analysis - The first time we see the child custody court, the camera is situated at the ground level inside the (magnificent) courthouse and facing the entrance from which Meryl enters with her lawyer. The camera then pans upwards towards the balcony where Dustin stands, deep in thought.

Implication - To me this scene sums up the genius of this movie. We as viewers have put Dustin's character on a moral high ground with the development of the plot. We can not relate to Meryl's side of the story in the same way (since her character is not fully developed). Thus at the end when Joanna gives back little Billy to Ted, all of us (Ted+ Joanna + viewers) feel vindicated.